|dc.description.abstract||This thesis is about the so-called divinity of Jesus Christ, an important issue in face of the risen importance of dialogue between christians en muslims, en also because of the diffuse images of divinity in western society. In that context the widespread prejudice that Jesus’ divinity is an invention of some Greekminded theologians needs constant revision.
There are several possibilities to enquire the meaning of Jesus’ divinity’. I choose the following question as leading for my investigation: how to think about the relationship between the Eternal Son and the historical Jesus. That question suits to the theology of two theologians I analyse: Ulrich Dalferth (born in 1948) and Wolfhart Pannenberg (born in 1928). And it also exemplifies the much felt clash between tradition and modernity, between the Christ of dogma and the human being Jesus of Nazareth as presented by modern exegesis.
After determining a central question, I create a path of questions to reach an answer. First, as an introduction, I ask for the interpretation Dalferth en Pannenberg give of the christological dogma of the church. The second question is what explanation Dalferth en Pannenberg give to the confession that Jesus is ‘Son of God’. The third question is what they think about the notion of the ‘eternal Son’, what they say about the subjectivity and divinity of the Son as a person of the trinity. My fourth question is pointed at the meaning they give to ‘incarnation’ (which in traditional christology is the connection between Jesus and the eternal Son). Fifth question is whether they ultimately speak about one or about two subjects: are Jesus Christ and the Eternal Son one and the same? Sixth and last step is the now following answer to the central question.
Dalferth en Pannenberg both give an extensive re-examination of the christological dogma, and the historical christology before and after the dogma. The have a different vision on the key problems concerning the dogma. Dalferth criticizes the focus on Jesus, and alleges that the ‘divine nature’ must point to God who acts in en through Jesus. For Pannenberg, the focus on Jesus is all right, but he thinks the relationship between God and man in Jesus’ person has not been thought well in classical christology. The fundamental problem for him is the connection between incarnation and the birth of Jesus, that led to the presupposition that the relationship between God and man in Jesus is constituted independent of his concrete life as a human being.
Dalferth en Pannenberg both assert that the Jesus’ resurrection has fundamental importance for his being the Son of God, though for different reasons. Dalferth states Jesus’ cross en resurrection have their ultimate meaning in their revealing of Gods acting. Through cross en resurrection Gods identifies with Jesus’ proclamation, and also gives an ultimate interpretation of it: He is love. Even in death He did not leave Jesus, and in the resurrection He lets Jesus participate in his own divine life. So God identifies himself for eternity through this living Jesus. Dalferths analysis of the development of the christological image ‘Son of God’ in the New Testament is meant to show that this development is an unfolding of the meaning of this action of God through Jesus’ cross en resurrection.
In Dalferths conception it is in this way implied that Jesus’ Sonship is a relationship between Jesus and God. That’s also a fundamental idea in Pannenberg’s christology, be it in a different way. Dalferth gives a strong accent on Gods initiative in this relationship, whereas Pannenberg has a greater place for the mutuality in the relationship between God and Jesus. This difference is grounded in a different view on the Sonship of Jesus: in Pannenberg’s view Jesus is the Son of God because he fulfils the destiny of man. In distinguishing himself from God, as a creature from the Creator, Jesus’ life as a human life can be totally connected to the life of God.
This leads to our following question: the meaning of ‘trinity’, especially the meaning of the Son for Gods identity. For Pannenberg the total connection of Jesus’ human life with God has its definitive base in the resurrection. And the resurrection also has its significance for Gods own life: through resurrecting Jesus from the dead He explains that the relation of Sonship belongs to his eternal identity. This means the Son also precedes the historical life of Jesus, and we must speak about the eternal Son of God. For Dalferth the Sonship of Jesus is also decisive for God’s identity, but in another way. He says God identifies with the person of Jesus in that He binds his own being to this person to reveal his essence. This essence is to be described as creative love, which is near even into death. This love also implies that God’s relationship to Jesus and to all other creatures has its base in God’s essence, but Gods essence cannot be interpreted as divine persons in mutual relationships (as Pannenberg does). The notion of pre-existence does say something about the soteriological meaning of God’s acting in en through Jesus Christ.
The notion of incarnation also has a secondary place in Dalferths theological conception. It is an image that explains some of the implications of Jesus’ resurrection, namely the integration of his life in God’s life. Dalferth asserts this points to God giving room to creation in his own uncreated life, ands so reveals the great nearness of God to our reality. For Pannenberg incarnation is about a person of God’s being, the eternal Son, assuming human life. He asserts that the totality of Jesus’ life and person is the incarnation of the eternal Son. Jesus’ human person and life is the medium for the appearance of the eternal Son in human history.
Next I come to my fifth question, namely the relationship of Jesus as a subject to God (the Son) as a subject. Dalferth stresses that Jesus’ subjectivity is grounded in God’s activity, and has an important role in that greater context. Through Jesus’ proclamation we can understand the meaning of the cross and the resurrection, and trough Jesus’ cross en resurrection God gives a definitive revelation of his being. The activity of the resurrected Jesus is a not very pronounced element in Dalferth’s theology, all stress is on God’s activity. Pannenberg also gives the human being Jesus an important role in the acting of God. But he sees in that activity of Jesus the acting of an incarnated divine subject: the eternal Son. It seems the eternal Son is a greater subject than Jesus, according to Pannenberg. This especially comes true in his thoughts about Jesus’ suffering, when he speaks about the eternal Son as acting while Jesus is passive.
Having answered the preceding questions, an answer to the central question can be formulated. It turns out that Dalferth doesn’t speak about an eternal divine Son, but is giving the person of Jesus Christ a crucial place in God’s identity. This fundamental relationship between God en the person of Jesus is characterized by the words ‘identification’ and ‘incorporation’. By raising Jesus from the dead, God identifies with Jesus’ proclamation, and so identifies himself as love. God binds his own identity to the most extreme situation of mankind, namely the Godforsaken death. And he ‘incorporates’ Jesus’ life in his own divine life, and through Jesus reveals that He is near to all reality. Pannenberg sees an indirect identity between the eternal Son and Jesus. In the concrete historical relationship between Jesus and God the Father we learn to know that Jesus’ history and person is the medium of appearance in human history for the eternal Son.
After the analysis and comparision of Dalferth and Pannenberg, I try to develop my own view. In many points I mainly agree with Pannenberg. Important points of agreement are: thinking the Sonship of Jesus as a mutual relationship between Jesus and the Father, and the conclusion the Sonship must belong to the eternal identity of God, so that there must be spoken of different persons in God. This makes it possible to speak about the incarnation of the eternal Son in the history and person of Jesus. I disagree with Pannenberg the way he thinks the incarnation. I claim the incarnation can be defended better when the relationship between Father and Son is understood without general qualifications, except that it is a relationship of love, whereby the goal is focussed at the Kingdom of God. Pannenberg gives to much qualifications to both the man Jesus and the eternal Son: the man Jesus has to fulfil the general structure of a human being, the eternal Son is bound to the infinity of God. When the only condition for the Sonship, both of Jesus and of the eternal Son, is the loving relationship to and from God the Father, then the unity of Jesus and the eternal Son can be thought more fully. Which attributes Jesus has, as ‘God’ or as ‘man’, can’t be said in abstraction from the concrete relationship between Son and Father as told in the gospels. In the end, I come to the proposal that it’s hardly possible to discern what belongs to Jesus ‘divine nature’ and what to his ‘human nature’. The four qualifications whereby Chalcedon speaks about the relationship between divine and human nature are pointing to an indescribable fact: that God (the Son) became a human being.
So I think Jesus is divine, because He is one of the subjects of the eternal divine life. This doesn’t mean the ‘divine nature’ is something of Jesus own person, it exists in his relationship to the Father through the Spirit. In this way I avoid the classical christological trap Dalferth rightly discerns, of focussing too much on Jesus on his own. Simultaneously I claim Dalferths position can be strengthened when he would speak about personal relationships in the being of God. When this is strictly bound to Jesus’ person, and is soberly described, then an implausible mythological and metaphysical figure doesn’t have to appear on the scene.||